NFL Wild Card playoff rewind: Cardinals' season ends with rout by Rams

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The Los Angeles Rams (13-5) advanced to the NFC playoff divisional round after they routed the Arizona Cardinals at home, 34-11, on Monday.

It was Cardinals first playoff game since 2015, and the first under head coach Kliff Kingsbury and starting quarterback Kyler Murray.

Arizona finished the season at 11-7 and the NFL's best road record at 8-2. The Cardinals lost five of their final six games, after starting the season at 7-0 and sitting at 10-2 through Dec. 5.

Kupp pouring yards on Cardinals

Oct 3, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) catches a pass in the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinalsat SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) catches a pass in the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinalsat SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper Kupp has been unstoppable.

The Cardinals spoke all last week about how to contain the Rams' best wideout.

But Kupp is shredding the Cardinals secondary, and making huge gains after his five catches from seven targets.

On the drive that ended with Los Angeles scoring its second field goal for 46 yards to go up 34-11 with 4:21 left to play, Kupp converted a third down on his longest 29-yard catch, and then another reception for 16 on second down.

Kupp currently has a game-high 61 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Cardinals' Prater kicks in 55-yard FG

Matt Prater answered the Rams field goal on the Cardinals' subsequent drive by booting a 55-yard FG. It was his first of the game.

It happened on fourth-and-20 at 10:11 left to play.

The Cardinals trail 31-11.

Rams FG extends large lead

Los Angeles pushed up its lead to 31-8 on Mayy Gay's field goal on fourth-and-5 at the 14:55 mark in the fourth quarter.

That was the game's first FG.

Jan 17, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) is taken off the field by stretcher after an injury against the Los Angeles Rams during the third quarter of the NFC Wild Card playoff game. Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-Arizona Republic
Jan 17, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) is taken off the field by stretcher after an injury against the Los Angeles Rams during the third quarter of the NFC Wild Card playoff game. Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-Arizona Republic

Budda Baker taken off field on stretcher

The Cardinals starting Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker was injured while making a tackle

Baker was in a head-on collision with Rams running back Cam Akers on first-and-10 at Arizona's 16 at 1:51 left in the third quarter.

Akers ran the ball on the left end for 11 yards before being tackled by Baker, who was left motionless on the field.

Cam Akers immediately got up and made a "too small" gesture while he walked past Baker, which many Cardinals felt should have garnered a taunting penalty by the Rams. But it didn't.

Baker raised his hand while on the stretcher to signal he came to as both teams surrounded him. He left the stadium in an ambulance.

Cardinals scores TD late in 3rd

The Cardinals prevented a shutout by the Rams.

James Conner scored a two-yard rushing touchdown, Arizona's first, on second-and-goal from the 2 at 4:11 left in the third quarter.

That was the Cardinals' first drive into the red zone.

Then Kyler Murray threw a short pass left to Antoine Wesley to score a two-point conversion.

Cardinals are still down, 28-8.

Rams scored after big trick play

The Rams did an old school razzle dazzle play for a 40-yard gain into the red zone for the third time.

On first-and-10 from their own 49, Odell Beckham Jr. started on the far left and dropped back about seven yards and Matthew Stafford threw the ball to him. Beckham heaved the ball across the middle to running back Cam Akers in the far right flat, and he ran for about an additional 10 yards down to Arizona's 11.

Two plays thereafter, Stafford threw to his top target Cooper Kupp toward the right corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.

The extra point was good, Rams piling on the score, 28-0.

Rams lead Cardinals by a lot

The Red Sea didn't rise up in the first half.

Los Angeles has a commanding 21-0 lead over Arizona.

Through the Cardinals' eight possessions, they have had five three-and-outs, two interceptions including a pick-6, 13 passing yards, 27 rushing yards, just three first downs and zero third down conversions in six tries.

Kyler Murray has been sacked twice, and is 7-of-17 passing for just 28 yards.

The Rams are manhandling Arizona in the air and on the ground. They've had nine first downs, 86 passing yards, 94 rushing, 4-of-8 on third down, and allowed one sack. Their quarterback Matthew Stafford is 6-of-9 for 93 yards and threw one TD.

The Cardinals haven't come back to win when trailing an opponent since their Week 8 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 28.

Los Angeles will get the ball to start the third quarter.

Rams score on pick-6 after QB hit on Murray in end zone

The downward spiral continues for Arizona.

The Rams scored their third touchdown on a pick-6 caught by cornerback David Long on third-and-7 from Cardinals 4 at 7:59 in the second quarter.

Murray stayed in the pocket too long and couldn't find any options, then inside linebacker Troy Reeder hit Murray, who tried to shovel the ball away before Long caught the wobbly, airborne ball and ran it in.

The Cardinals trail, 21-0, and they haven't gotten past midfield

On the next drive, Murray threw his second interception caught by defensive tackle Marquise Copeland seven plays later on second-and-12 from their own 48.

Cardinals searching for offense

Nothing has been positive for the Arizona offense so far.

Through the 10:30 mark in the second quarter, the Cardinals have had four three-and-outs and have negative 4 total offensive yard.

That's from negative seven passing yards and just three yards on the ground. They've had 12 plays and are 0-for-four on third down.

Kyler Murray has been sacked twice for losses of seven yards.

The Cardinals even tried to get creative with a trick play at 2:39 left in the first quarter on third down from their own 16. Murray threw a short pass to wide receiver Christian Kirk on the outside, and he threw it to James Conner in the backfield on the right side. Conner then ran for 18 yards, but the officials penalized the Cardinals for an illegal forward pass.

That play moved them back to the 14 yard line.

The Rams, on the other hand, are having their way with the Cardinals defense, with 169 total yards. That's from 86 passing, 83 rushing, nine first downs and are 4-for-6 on third down through 26 plays.

Cardinals defense struggling as Rams score 2nd TD

The first quarter ended after the Rams had two chunk plays in the closing seconds and led 7-0.

The first was for 15 yards from running back Cam Akers on second-and-12 from their own 30. The second was from tight end Tyler Higbee on second-and-5 from Arizona's 36.

The Rams ran the ball 11 times for 68 yards in the opening period, and the Cardinals had just 3 rushing yards. Los Angeles had 55 passing yards and the Cardinals and negative 6.

When the Rams began the second quarter holding the ball on third-and-2, Matthew Stafford threw a 31-yard deep pass left to Odell Beckham Jr., which got them to the 2.

Sony Michel attempted to run the ball in on first-and-goal and was called for a touchdown, but the officials reversed the call after a review. Then Matthew Stafford did a quarterback sneak to break the plane on the following play for a one-yard TD at 11:58. The officials ruled no gain, but the Los Angeles challenged that call, and the play was later ruled a TD.

Cardinals trail the Rams, 14-0.

OBJ TD gives Rams early lead

Rams' All-Pro wideout Odell Beckham Jr. caught his first playoff career touchdown to end their second drive on third-and-goal at 3:50 in the first quarter.

Matthew Stafford threw a short pass left to Beckham.

The extra point was good, Los Angeles leads 7-0.

Cardinals run defense exposed on Rams' 1st play

The Rams rushing attack exploited Arizona's struggles to stop the run.

Sony Michel hit the crease through the B gap and ran for 35 yards from the Rams' own 20 at 13:44.

The Cardinals rushing defense has hovered within the league's bottom half all season.

But four plays later, the Cardinals' sack leader Markus Golden tackled Matt Stafford for a loss of seven on third-and-10 at Arizona's 45 to end their drive.

Watt, Moore are back, Conner starting, inactive players

J.J. Watt's comeback from his shoulder injury will have a huge impact on the Cardinals' confidence for their defense with millions watching.

But the Cardinals have additional boosts on offense from starting running back James Conner and Rondale Moore ready to go as well. They were not among Arizona's inactive players for tonight's game.

Arizona's top rusher and touchdown leader Conner was a game-time decision for the fourth consecutive game entering Monday. He suffered his rib injury in their road win against the Cowboys on Jan. 2, and played through his heel injury in their three previous games. Conner played in their regular season finale loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 9.

The speedy rookie wideout Moore is back for the first time since their only road loss to the Detroit Lions on Dec. 19. He's missed their next three games from his ankle injury.

Cardinals inactive players include WR Andy Isabella, QB Trace McSorley, RB Jonathan Ward, outside linebacker Victor Dimukeje, defensive linemen Zach Kerr and Jordan Phillips, and offensive lineman Josh Miles.

Rams players who won't play are QB Bryce Perkins, safety Taylor Rapp, RB Buddy Howell, outside linebackers Chris Garrett, Terrell Lewis, OLs Alaric Jackson and Tremayne Anchrum Jr.

Other Cardinals-Rams storylines:

Have tips for us? Reach the reporter at dana.scott@azcentral.com or at 480-486-4721. Follow his Twitter @iam_DanaScott.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: NFL Wild Card playoff rewind: Arizona Cardinals crushed by L.A. Rams

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